Ensign Intermediate girls get a portable locker-room building after 2016 gym fire

About 600 girls at Ensign Intermediate School in Newport Beach are using a portable building as a temporary locker room following a fire last year that damaged their original facility, school officials said.

The Newport-Mesa Unified School District board this week approved a contract with Elite Modular Inc. to rent a quadruple-wide portable to serve as the makeshift locker room.

The air-conditioned unit measures 1,920 square feet and has been placed on the campus blacktop. Though the school board approved the contract Tuesday, the portable has been in use since the first day of school Sept. 5, said Ensign Principal Michael Sciacca.

The estimated cost of the portable is $155,000, which ultimately will be covered by insurance, said district spokeswoman Annette Franco.

Sciacca said Ensign is looking to add lockers inside the unit, which also has a coaches’ office and bathroom.

Last school year, following a fire in the gym on Nov. 11, a choir room served as the temporary girls’ locker room. It was picked because of its size, and students and officials nicknamed it “The Hive” due to cramped conditions that lacked privacy.

The fire also damaged the boys’ facilities and a storage area used by the school’s robotics program.

The boys’ area and the gym itself have been repaired and are in use.

Sciacca said the portable is “really going to function as a locker room. That was important for all of us, not knowing how things can delay construction. We want to make sure our girls can have an equal facility to the boys.”

Franco said the district doesn’t have a set date for when the girls’ locker room will be fully repaired, but officials hope to have some work done by the spring, with the girls regaining full use of their original locker room by the start of the 2018-19 school year.

Factors affecting the final construction schedule include approvals needed from the Division of the State Architect, as well as insurance questions, Franco said.

Two teenage boys were arrested in April in connection with the Ensign fire following an arson investigation.

Students lost personal possessions in the blaze, including running shoes and PE uniforms. An online donation page was set up afterward.

Franco said the gym project will include a reconfiguring of lockers in the girls’ and boys’ facilities, upgraded restrooms, painting and work to make the area compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

“We want to give them something better than we had before,” Franco said.

bradley.zint@latimes.com

Twitter: @BradleyZint

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